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FTC considering whether to recuse Lina Khan from Meta-VR antitrust suit

The FTC is mulling dismissing its own chairwoman in a major antitrust suit.


Jacob Seitz


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering dismissing chairwoman Lina Khan from a merger lawsuit involving Meta, according to a court filing Monday. 

The suit, which is an attempt by the FCC to block the merger of Meta and Within Unlimited—a VR software company—was launched in July. The FTC said the merger would “stifle competition and dampen innovation in the dynamic, rapidly growing U.S. markets for fitness and dedicated-fitness VR apps.”

Meta had previously filed for Khan to be dismissed from the suit last month on grounds that previous statements from her showed “bias.” Meta said Khan held a “​​prejudgment that Meta can never be allowed to acquire another company, and thus [is unable] to fairly adjudicate Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within.”

Now, the FTC is looking to consider her dismissal, according to court documents filed this week.

According to Law360, the documents say that “The full commission is now considering Meta’s motion to disqualify Chair Khan without Chair Khan’s participation.” The implication of the documents is that Khan refused to recuse herself, meaning that the FTC, minus Khan, agreed to decide if she will need to recuse herself.

Meta has tried to get her removed from lawsuits in the past, like an antitrust lawsuit last year, where the company argued Khan “has consistently made public statements” accusing the company of wrongdoing and therefore was biased against them.

Other big tech companies have tried to get Khan off their cases too. Amazon last year sent a 25-page petition to the FTC arguing for Khan to recuse herself from antitrust cases, saying she could “no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind” given her past pronouncements about the company.

Khan has been a vocal and fervent critic of Big Tech and anti-competitive practices from tech companies, and with the lawsuit is attempting to hold Meta to a new standard. But, her lawsuit has been unraveling in recent days. Last week, the FTC filed an amended complaint that dropped claims that Meta’s acquisition of Within would “tend to create a monopoly” in VR-based fitness apps. 

Meta, which has fought the allegations brought by the FTC since the beginning, said the amended complaint is full of “speculative claims that continue to lack support in either the facts or the law.”

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